Beinn nan Oighreag, hill of the cloudberries

A FEW WEEKS AGO I WENT TO BEINN NAN Oighreag, not well known to be sure, but a hill that provides an excellent shorter day outing.

It lies NNW of Killin in the middle of a large stretch of ground fringed by Munros, the Lawers group and Meall nan Tarmachan to the east, and Meall Ghaordaidh to the west.

Beinn nan Oighreag is one of the 219 hills known as Corbetts, Scottish hills between 2,500 and 2,999ft (762m to 914m), with a drop all round of at least 500ft (152.4m). The list was compiled by John Rooke Corbett, who in 1930 became the fourth person to complete all the Munros. Beinn nan Oighreag comfortably qualifies on both height and drop. Indeed, the hill almost makes the 3,000ft Munro status, being just short at 909m/2982ft. The high ground to the south-west, the Lairig Luaidhe, that separates the hill from Meall Ghaordaidh, lies at 638m, thus giving a climb of nearly 300m.

This 18ft height shortfall ensures that Beinn nan Oighreag is never a busy hill, with little of a worn path on its summit plateau. Seldom climbed, maybe, but the hill is all the better for that and if you want a shorter but quieter day then Beinn nan Oighreag could be the one for you.

Not dissimilar to the Munro Sgiath Chuil, to the south, albeit not so craggy, Beinn nan Oighreag's small summit plateau, less than a mile above 850m, is a mossy delight and a wonderful viewpoint. It has three distinct bumps, the middle one being the highest point.

Beinn nan Oighreag means hill of the cloudberries. The most informative Flora Celtica, Plants and People in Scotland describes the cloudberry, "This low-lying and relatively scarce plant of the high mountain tops produces a pretty white flower followed by a single orange fruit, similar in appearance to a raspberry. In Scotland this species does not fruit consistently, and knowledge of good cloudberry patches tends to be a closely guarded secret among pickers." It is a common jam fruit in Scandinavia, but I have yet to see hillwalkers picking the fruit on these slopes. Perhaps I have not been looking hard enough, or it may be that global warming is taking its toll.

I first climbed the hill way back in March 1984. My diary noted: "Bad weather ruled out the very high tops. We headed up from Duncroisk but were soon into waterproofs. With no visibility higher up, the wind was stronger and none too pleasant. It was more sheltered at the Lairig Luaidhe, then a steady climb, navigating to the summit. Lots of new soft snow and very wet. Glad to get back to the car."

Although an approach from the Loch Tay to Glen Lyon road to the east gives a much higher starting point, it involves a less interesting day crossing the very boggy Lairig Breisleich. Overall, a start from Glen Lochay to the south gives an easier approach.

You will need Ordnance Survey map 51, Loch Tay & Glen Dochart.

Go up Glen Lochay for three miles and cross the Allt Dhuin Croisg. There is reasonable parking space a few yards further on by a gentle bend in the road. Park with consideration. Walk back towards the Allt Dhuin Croisg for the start of a farm track not shown on the map. A sign says Meall Ghaordaidh, but of course, no mention of Beinn nan Oighreag.

The track heads NNE on the west side of the river, initially through fields and then on to open country. On approaching some shielings, ignore the worn path that goes north-west towards Meall Ghaordaidh. Continue NNE, by now in all likelihood with scarcely a soul around. At a height of 500m, cross the Allt na h-Iolaire (stream of the eagle) to reach the start of the hill's long southern ridge. Overlooking the ruins of more shielings to the east, the ridge gradually appears more defined and steepens, but not demandingly so. The terrain becomes firmer and drier underfoot.

The summit area, which appears to be less undulating than the map would suggest, gives an enjoyable traverse and there is no reason why the northerly 899m bump should not be visited as well. On a misty day, that bump is also the certainty that you have passed the highest point.

Return the same way.


Map Ordnance Survey map 51, Loch Tay & Glen Dochart

Distance 6 miles

Height 800m

Terrain Farm track, grassy hillside and mossy plateau

Start point West of Duncroisk and the Allt Dhuin Croisg in Glen Lochay at map ref 526364

Time 4 to 5 hours

Nearest village Killin

Nearest refreshment spot A good choice in Killin